Whole Wheat Chocolate Cardamom Cake with Boozy Buttercream

The Birthday That WAS Meant To Be
March 2012

This was the first birthday Dana wasn’t supposed to have.  This was the first birthday past the three-year life expectancy her doctor gave her, but Dana is a snowflake in the desert! My friend Dana, the friend I am so fortunate to have, is not only unique but persistent, even when all odds are against her!  I met Dana after her battle with breast cancer, and it wasn’t until this birthday that I heard the full story.  Whatever forces exist in the universe, those forces aligned to keep Dana here!

She has touched my life in so many ways.  I have turned to her, tear stained and low, only to be redirected and re-inspired.  I know I’m not the only friend to seek her advice and her fierce loyalty.  I’m sure Dana has affected more people than she even knows, and in the past couple years, she has taken on a new mission to help even more people.  Propelled by her own cancer survival, Dana is dedicated to pushing natural gas drilling debates and policies back to environmental, health and safety regulations, and she is set to do it in a way that Engages, Empowers and Educates!

My point here is not politics.  My point here is how Dana was meant to have this birthday. She was meant to inspire change, and in the very least, I was meant to make that girl a birthday cake!  Three tiers for three years and many more cakes yet to come!

Chocolate Cardamom Coffee Cake


1 bar (4 oz.) Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie 86% Cacao bar

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest from an organic orange
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cups honey
1 cup (2 sticks) organic, unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup organic heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease and line a 9-inch-round baking pan and a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate using a Maria bath.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, orange zest and cardamom in a small bowl.

Beat brown sugar, butter, eggs, instant coffee and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl for 3 minutes.

Gradually add melted chocolate and continue beating for an additional minute.

Alternate adding flour and heavy cream to the chocolate batter, wiping with a spatula after each addition.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.

Use the parchment paper to remove the cakes from the pans and invert onto plates.

Boozy Mocha Buttercream Frosting


6 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
3 teaspoons instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules
1 cup (2 sticks) organic unsalted butter, softened
1 package organic Neufchatel cheese, softened
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons Jameson Irish Whiskey


Melt chocolate using a Maria bath, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature.

Dissolve the instant espresso in the melted chocolate.

In a mixing bowl, combine the melted chocolate, softened butter, Neufchatel cheese, honey, vanilla and Jameson. Use an electric mixer to beat until smooth and creamy.

Spread onto cake, chilling the cake between applications.

Dear Dana,

I count you as family (and not family in the crazy, try-to-ignore-them sense)! Your generosity, loyalty, passion, creativity and craziness are commendable, and I am truly blessed to have you in my life! I wish everyone could have a Dana Dolney in their lives, but I am not being cliche when I say there is NO ONE like you! Keep kicking and screaming kiddo because you have so much more to accomplish on this earth! There are so many more cakes in store for you, and I am privileged each and every time I am the baker behind the cake!  Happy happy happy happy birthday Dana!



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